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Best FTP Server Software for Secure File Transfer

The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is the longtime framework for transferring files over the internet. Organizations are all too familiar with FTP server software for securing online traffic and business processes.

At the core of the Internet Protocol (IP) is connecting devices and facilitating the transfer of files to and from remote geographic locations. Because internet communications aren’t inherently secure, SMBs up to enterprise organizations need the additional resources and server power for processes like large B2B file transfers and access management to shared data between remote offices. 

Even with the adoption of cloud services that offer similar functionality, FTP servers remain crucial for hosting and controlling file transfers in-house. A growing list of commercial features speaks directly to specific organization needs, calling for an evaluation of the top solutions.

This article presents the top FTP server software solutions and what administrators should consider before deciding.

Evaluating FTP Servers

Questions to consider when looking for an FTP server solution include:

  • Does the vendor offer a free trial, demo, or money-back guarantee?
  • What standard or advanced features are available for free or via a commercial plan?
  • Do the solution’s capabilities justify the cost of a premium FTP server?
  • What file storage, activity logging, and security features come with the solution?
  • What integrations for cloud and onsite systems and applications are available?
VendorFTPSSFTPHTTP/SCompressionAPIMFTWindowsmacOSFree Trial
Cerberus25 days
ExaVault30 days
Files.com7 days
FileZilla
HelpSystems30 days
Microsoft180 days
Panic7 days
Progress Software30 days
Rebex30 days
SmartFile14 days
SolarWinds14 days
South River Technologies20 days

Best FTP Server Solutions of 2021

Company image for Cerberus FTP Server

Cerberus

Launched in 2000, Cerberus celebrated 20 years with the launch of Cerberus FTP Server 12.0 in June 2021. Cerberus is a Windows-centric FTP server supporting Windows Server editions from 2007 to the latest iteration in 2019. As a devoted FTP vendor, Cerberus offers solutions for Managed File Transfer (MFT), on-premises servers, regulatory compliance, and data privacy. 

With FTPS using TLS encryption and SFTP using SSH2, operators have options to transfer files securely. Interested customers can start a 25-day free trial or purchase one of the below commercial plans with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pricing

StandardProfessionalEnterprise
$499$899$1,999

Key Features

  • Central web management of users, groups, and virtual directories
  • SOAP Control API and IP address allowlisting and blocklisting
  • Support for FTPS, SFTP, SCP, Public Key Authentication, and FIPS 140-2
  • Integration with existing Active Directory and LDAP
  • Certificate administration, including CRL and CA support and certificate verification
  • HTTP/S web client for enterprise clients with ad hoc file sharing and advanced reporting

Read more: Best Database Software & Management Systems 2021

Company image for ExaVault

ExaVault

Boasting 2 billion files of 6,000 terabytes transferred this year, ExaVault has become a strong choice for secure file transfer solutions. The FTP-focused vendor formed in 2009 and was processing 100,000 transactions per hour by 2014, crossing the 2 million mark in 2021. ExaVault offers a range of client-specific needs for numbers of users, file storage, daily transactions, and monthly bandwidth with four business plans.

Its base plan covers FTP and SFTP capabilities for five users, 100GB of file storage, 60,000 daily transactions, and 100GB of monthly bandwidth. From there, plans include branding, 24/7 support features, advanced controls, and automation with webhooks and API credentials tokens. Prospective customers can schedule a live demo or start a 30-day free trial of one of the plans listed below.

Pricing

EssentialStandardProfessionalsEnterprise
$540$960$2,400$6,000

Key Features

  • File storage of 100GB, 500GB, or 1TB to securely scale file transfer activity
  • Options for users and monthly bandwidth, from 5 customers and 100GB to unlimited
  • Daily transactions start at 60,000 and can go as high as 2 million transactions per day
  • Access to webhooks, RESTful JSON API Suite, and API credentials
  • Direct links for sharing and customization features for branding
Company image for Files.com

Files.com

Born out of frustration with existing corporate file-sharing services, Files.com started in 2009 to build an intelligent cloud storage solution for businesses. Today it has over 1,700 business clients and one of the most substantial lists of integrative apps for pushing and pulling remote files or mounting. For enterprises, Files.com can offer up to 10TB a month and 2 million API requests daily with an SLA, SSO, and white-label deployment option.

Files.com offers three plans for clients – Starter, Power, and Premier – varying by users, usage, and daily API requests, as well as features across a robust list of categories. Features groups include file transfer and integrations, sync frequency, global support, security and encryption, compliance and legal, and more. Clients can start a 7-day free trial before purchase.

Pricing

StarterPowerPremier
$10 / monthCustom QuoteCustom Quote

For $199 per month more, Files.com offers an Enterprise Connectivity Add-on for integrations with inbound FTP, SFTP, and WebDAV systems such as OneDrive, Box, AWS S3, Azure, GCP, Rackspace, and more.

Key Features

  • Options for number of users, bandwidth, and API requests per month
  • Sync frequencies to secure the latest data and pull records quickly
  • Security like encryption at rest and in transit, HTTPS, and mandated MFA
  • Digital asset management, including integrations, in-app media, and branding
  • Configuration management of permissions, folders, logs, admins, and groups of users
Company image for FileZilla Pro.

FileZilla

When searching for FTP servers, it’s hard to miss FileZilla. The open-source FTP server software started as a computer science class project in 2001 and is now the most popular free solution on the market. Offering FTP, FTP over TLS, and SFTP, FileZilla is available under the terms and conditions of GNU GPL, v2, and FileZilla Server under GNU AGPL, v3. The free version of FileZilla has a robust list of tools to support larger file transfers but naturally lacks enterprise-level features.

FileZilla Pro goes a step further with access to a bundle of cloud storage protocol integrations like WebDAV, Azure, Google Drive, GCP, OpenStack Swift, AWS, and Backblaze. FZ Pro is also available via Command Line Interface (CLI) with tools for running batch transfers for terminal-friendly users. All plans for respective platforms are a single, one-time payment.

Pricing

FZ Pro: WindowsCLI: WindowsFZ Pro + CLI: WindowsFZ Pro: MacFZ Pro: Linux (Debian)
$19.99$19.99$29.99$19.99$19.99

Key Features

  • Cross-platform compatibility with Windows, Linux, BSD, macOS, and more
  • Configurable transfer speed limits and remote file editing and searching
  • Supports the secure transfer of files larger than 4GB with FTP, FTPS, and SFTP
  • Web GUI with transfer queue, bookmarks, tabs, and drag-and-drop functionality
  • Management tools like directory comparison and browsing and filename filters

Read more: Top Data Fabric Software Solutions 2021

Company image for HelpSystems

HelpSystems

With three acquisitions in the FTP space in the last five years, cybersecurity and IT automation software vendor HelpSystems is a file transfer force in the industry. In 2016, HelpSystems bought Linoma Software and its flagship encryption and managed file transfer (MFT) solution, GoAnywhere. In 2020, the vendor acquired Globalscape, known for its enhanced file transfer (EFT) offerings, including CuteFTP, EFT Arcus, and EFT Enterprise. Earlier this year, the purchase of FileCatalyst added a file transfer acceleration service into the mix.

Together, buyers have a long list of plan options and variable features to meet their specific needs. On top of its acquisitions, HelpSystems’ Automate Suite also aids in automating data storage and synchronization. Prospective clients can request a quote, and all plans come with a 30-day free trial.

Key Features

  • On-premises, cloud, or hybrid MFT for Windows systems with Globalscape
  • Built-in regulatory compliance, auditing and reporting, and workflow automation
  • File management tools like encryption, compression, ad hoc, syncing, and more
  • Extensive integration compatibility with GoAnywhere MFT
  • Faster delivery and receipt without losing security via FileCatalyst
Company image for Microsoft IIS

Microsoft IIS

Global technology giant Microsoft first launched Windows Server in 2003, which hosts its web server software functionality known as Internet Information Services (IIS). IIS supports FTP, FTPS, HTTPS, SMTP, and more for protocols, and configuration management is seamless for Windows-centric organizations or users.

Administrators can use FTP for existing and new sites by enabling the Microsoft FTP Module, controlling file transfer policies, using custom authentication providers, and configuring virtual hostnames.

An advantage of choosing IIS is its native integrations with Microsoft’s cloud platform, Azure. Clients can quickly connect on-premises and cloud file servers with SMB compression, which compresses data while in transit. Prospective clients can try IIS with a free trial for Windows Server on Azure or on-premises software.

Windows Server Pricing

EssentialsStandardDatacenter
$501$1069$6,155

Key Features

  • Support for FTP over SSL (FTPS) and non-Windows custom authentication
  • Familiar GUI for Microsoft clients and integrated into Windows Server
  • Make virtual directories visible and searchable for FTP clients
  • Host FTP and web content on the same site with user isolation configuration
  • Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) detailing FTP log events and transactions
Company image for Panic Transmit 5

Panic Transmit 5

Software and video game vendor Panic Inc. specializes in developing macOS and iOS applications, including its multifunctional secure file transfer app, Transmit 5. While some mentioned solutions pre-date the emergence of cloud computing, Transmit is happy to support almost a dozen different storage options as a next-generation FTP client software. 

Transmit’s interface includes an info sidebar, places bar, batch renaming, column view, and a file sync progress bar with a dual-pane view. Administrators can also benefit from a redesigned engine with multithreading and complex folder management in mind. Prospective clients can try T5 free for seven days or make a one-time purchase. Discounts on licenses come with larger quantity orders. The prices below reflect unit prices before tax.

Transmit 5 Pricing

Licenses1251001000
Unit Price$45$40$30$10

Key Features

  • Support for FTP, SFTP, WebDAV HTTPS, and a dozen cloud services
  • Local-to-local and remote-to-remote sync capabilities with Panic Sync
  • Built-in generation and management of keys for secure file transfers
  • User tools for browsing directories, favorite folders, by tags, and more
  • File rule options, selectable file sync, and remote URL copy
Company image for Progress Software

Progress Software

Progress Software meets changing needs related to automation and app development, but that hasn’t stopped the IT veteran from extending its secure file transfer footprint. In 2019, Progress acquired top FTP vendor Ipswitch, adding MOVEit and WS_FTP Server to its solution stack.

Both solutions offer business-grade features but serve different audiences. The WS_FTP Server is ideal for small and mid-sized businesses needing FTP-based secure file transfer, while MOVEit is Progress’s MFT solution suited to enterprise organizations. Prospective clients can try either WS_FTP Server or MOVEit with a 30-day free trial. Pricing and licensing costs for WS_FTP are below, and MOVEit plans are available on request.

WS_FTP Server Pricing

BasicSecurePremium
$874.50 / year$1,864.50 / year$4,944.50 / year

WS_FTP Server Licensing

Single User LicenseSingle User + SupportMultiple Users + Support
$49.95 / license$89.95 / license$390 / 5 licenses

Key Features

  • Control user access and permissions and log of FTP client transaction activity
  • Secure file transfer options beyond FTP with SFTP (SSH) and FTPS (SSL)
  • Preserve data integrity with 256-bit AES, SCP2, certificate management, and more 
  • Schedule recurring and post-transfer actions, and set sync or archive policies
  • Built-in email notifications, backup, compressions, and scheduling
  • Automation of tasks and workflows and support for REST, Java, and .NET APIs
Company image for Rebex

Rebex

Since 2002, Rebex has sold .NET components (Windows) to a worldwide audience that includes over 10,000 independent software vendors, government agencies, SMBs, and enterprises. The Rebex Tiny SFTP Server is a reliable, free tool for quick deployment in application development and testing for single users.

For organizations needing unlimited users, concurrent sessions, and scalability, the Rebex Buru SFTP Server offers licenses on a per-developer basis for free (personal, non-profit, educational) or commercial use ($299/developer). The Buru SFTP Server includes advanced features like web theming, virtual path mappings, and Windows authentication and impersonation. Additional plans included below are the prices for the binaries for various mainstream .NET platforms.

Pricing

Buru SFTP ServerSFTPFile Transfer PackTotal Pack
$299 / machine$349$699$1,199

Key Features

  • Free (Tiny SFTP) and premium FTP (Buru SFTP) server options
  • Compatible with all Windows operating systems with .NET 4.0 components
  • RSA and DSA encryption key support and detail log activity of FTP transactions
  • Easy unpacking of Rebex ZIP file to get started; no installation needed
  • Web GUI customization and branding for commercial use

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Company image for SmartFile

SmartFile

SmartFile offers a web-based FTP via cloud application or self-hosted on-premises appliance, with a focus on client usability. SmartFile Cloud and its on-prem counterpart, FileHub, provide options for FTP, SFTP, and FTPS and premium commercial features. Both options allow administrators to share data with personnel and external partners, monitor file activity, and ensure data privacy regulations.

Small teams up to large organizations can benefit from SmartFile features like unlimited simultaneous connections, web theme customization, WebDAV integration options, and automated workflows. FileHub offers clients 24/7 support, automated Syslog exporting, remote backups, and cloud storage connectors. Clients can try SmartFile with a 14-day free trial.

Pricing

BusinessBusiness PlusBusiness UnlimitedFileHub
$10/mo or $100/yr$15/mo or $150/yrQuoteQuote

Key Features

  • Custom folder permissions, advanced sharing, file previews, and OCR searching
  • Custom branding and the ability to use an existing subdomain for sharing
  • Advanced security with 256-bit AES encryption, MFA, and password protected sharing
  • SLA and BAA with Business Unlimited to optimize the vendor-client relationship
  • On-premises storage, backup, and global networking solution with FileHub
Company image for SolarWinds

SolarWinds Serv-U

Despite the 2020 breach that put SolarWinds in the limelight, the IT software vendor claims over 300,000 global clients and 99.6% of the Fortune 500. SolarWinds’ Serv-U FTP Server and Serv-U Managed File Transfer Server offer support for FTP, FTPS, and SFTP over IPv4 and IPv6 networks for fast and secure file transfer. 

The Serv-U FTP Server is ideal for small businesses and teams, allowing users to view, upload, and download files from remote mobile and desktop clients. Users can also manage large file transfers, simultaneous file activity, and a transfer queue for balancing and prioritizing workloads.

Other Serv-U features include real-time session monitoring, access to local virtual storage, and control over storage, bandwidth, permissions, and client access. Prospective clients can download a 14-day free trial, and the MFT server plan offers a discounted unit price for larger orders.

Pricing

Serv-U FTP ServerServ-U MFT Server (1)Serv-U MFT Server (25)
$528 / server$3,192 / server$2,105 / server

Key Features

  • Easy-to-use web interface for desktop and mobile devices
  • Control management of sessions and IP addresses, or require reverse DNS names
  • Support for multiple file transfers and files larger than 3GB
  • Log monitoring and troubleshooting for investigating specific activity or errors
  • Configuration manager for managing user, group, folder, and file permissions

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Company image for South River Technologies

South River Technologies

Founded in 2001, South River Technologies (SRT) is a dedicated secure file transfer vendor with options for FTP and MFT customers. The Titan FTP Server comes as an Azure or AWS-based application or an on-premises license and offers FTP, FTPS, and SFTP capabilities. With SRT’s FTP client, WebDrive, users can map a network drive and quickly access servers using SFTP and WebDAV protocols. Users can try Titan FTP for free during a 20-day trial.

SRT offers one of the most comprehensive solutions — with a price tag to prove it — for managed file transfer. The Cornerstone MFT provides perimeter security, disk encryption, automation, professional services implementation, and one year of maintenance and support for enterprise organizations of varying sizes.

Titan FTP Server Pricing

ProfessionalEnterpriseEnterprise + WebUI
$599.95$1,249.95$1,999.95

Cornerstone MFT Pricing

Small ImplementationMedium ImplementationLarge Implementation
$16,500$23,800$47,500

Key Features

  • Web client or CLI interface compatible with Windows systems
  • Plans start with FTP or FTPS and up to 200 user accounts and active connections
  • Automated tasks with triggers for batch files, executables, and scripts
  • Cross-platform support for Windows, Linux, and macOS, and all modern browsers
  • Options for CUCM backup solution and ongoing maintenance and support

What Is an FTP Server?

An FTP Server specializes in facilitating the File Transfer Protocol for transferring files over internet networks through the client-server model. The File Transfer Protocol acts as a set of rules governing how data gets transferred, helping organizations and individual users securely communicate with remote devices accessing shared resources.

FTP servers can be software, cloud, or hardware appliances and offer administrators configuration management capabilities for controlling how internet users access and share organization data.

Read more: Top Server Virtualization Companies

A graphic showing how an FTP server sits in between two FTP clients to offer a secure storage of files usually through encryption. Graphic designed by Sam Ingalls.

What Is an FTP Client?

FTP clients are the devices sharing, storing, and accessing data stored in an FTP server, like workstations, laptops, servers, smartphones, and IoT devices. Clients (end users) attempting to access FTP server capabilities or communicate with another network user typically must authenticate their identity before gaining access.

Read more: Top Rack Servers of 2021

What Is FTP Server Software?

FTP server software is an application developed and sold by vendors enabling FTP clients to access file transfer servers. Through a web-based application, FTP clients like remote staff or consumers can securely access or share data with other clients. With FTP server software, operators can enhance administrative management of file transfer operations.

FTP Server Software Features

  • Web-based administration via desktop application or browser
  • Access control and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)
  • Audits and log activity for administrator visibility and forensic reports
  • Encryption-in-transit and at rest, and authentication protocol functionality
  • Scripting options for developer automation
  • Failover and redundancy, like virtual storage and backups
  • Common transfer applications (FTP, FTPS, SFTP)

Why Pay for an FTP Server?

IT managers and organizations should pay for an FTP server solution when scaling remote operations, securing sensitive information, and enhancing file transfer capabilities. FTP servers specifically offer SMBs to large enterprises a secure, user-friendly, and fast method for sharing data that could be critical to business operations.

Read more: Using Zero Trust Security to Protect Applications and Databases

Managed File Transfer (MFT) Features

Managed file transfer (MFT) solutions go beyond FTP servers by offering a range of added features and benefits, like:

  • More configuration options via a dashboard with role-based access control (RBAC)
  • Tools for automation, compliance, reports, and analytics
  • Low costs for development licenses and scaling file transfer operations
  • Mobile client integration, tools, and management
  • Robust security with SSO, MFA, encryption-at-rest, disaster recovery

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